College is an amazing experience. You’ll take courses that expand your view of society while meeting incredibly talented people who may become your lifelong friends. On the flip side, it may be one of the most stressful times of your life. Classes will be hard. Deadlines will be forever looming. Oh, and let’s not forget tuition. The cost of attending your university will most likely grow every year. This is out of your control. But it doesn’t mean your personal finances have to be.
There are many ways you can save money as a college student. One easy way to save is by spending less on groceries.
There are many ways you can make saving money on food an everyday habit. Try these easy tips to save on your grocery bills during the academic year.
You are how much you eat.
When I started college, I was shocked at how much I was required to pay for a meal plan. If you are a freshman, chances are you have to have a school meal plan, at least for your first semester. Consider going with the least expensive meal plan option, if you can. Decide whether you will be eating every meal in a cafeteria or if you prefer to fix a few meals in your dorm room.
If you live off campus, budget for groceries weekly. It is very tempting to go out to eat or buy whatever sounds good at the store. When it comes to grocery shopping, have a list and stick to it. There is something to be said for buying ramen in bulk. One of my favorite college go-to meals was “fancy ramen”—ramen, frozen mixed vegetables and a chicken breast. Voilà.
Find free food.
Almost every event, lecture, lunchtime panel or activity on campus will have food. Take advantage of this. When I was in college, I started bringing food storage containers with me to events. Sometimes there would be whole pizzas left over. Don’t be ashamed. If you don’t take it, they may just throw it out. Stomach or trash can? I vote stomach.
Buy a coffee maker.
It is really tempting to buy a latte every morning. We had a Starbucks in our university center. It takes a lot of will power to shuffle through the U.C. on three hours of sleep and not be overtaken by the scrumptious aroma of a triple shot white chocolate peppermint soy mocha with extra whip. Save yourself $5 a day and buy a coffee maker. Plus, you can make a whole pot just for yourself. That means coffee all day long. Mmmmm.
Put it on your college wish list, get a cheap one at a thrift store or ask Mom and Dad if they have an old one in storage.
Join campus clubs and organizations.
Brimming with free food. Free food everywhere. I’m serious. Most meetings you attend will have snacks, pizza, sandwiches or other delicious treats. Your college experience (and resume) will greatly benefit from being a member of an organization, and you’ll get free food. Double bonus.
One fork. One knife. One spoon.
So you may think that 32-piece pro cooking set with a bonus turkey baster and gourmet meal guide is a must-have for your apartment kitchen. Chances are you will use the same cup, fork and plate over and over again. Save yourself $60+ and get a few of the essentials like one sauce pan, skillet and probably a good microwaveable pot (remember the ramen?). A handful of cups and cutlery goes a long way.
Pack your water bottle.
Refill stations are all the rage on college campuses. You’ll want to have a water bottle on hand. Buying water or other beverages is a waste of money. My university stopped selling bottled water altogether. So if you are walking or biking to class, or your classes are on the opposite ends of campus, you’ll want to have your water bottle with you at all times. Trust me.
Know your student ID perks.
Chances are your student ID goes a long way in your college town. Find out if you get a special discount at a local grocery store with your student ID. You may also get cheap hair cuts, discounted movie tickets and deals at local restaurants.
There are also countless apps you can download that give you coupons and deals. I suggest downloading the app for the grocery store you shop at the most, as well as joining the store’s loyalty or membership program (you do NOT need to sign up for the store credit card to save).
Treat Yo Self.
So you had a big test coming up. You made flash cards. Created a study group. Stayed up until the wee hours of the morning studying. Test day comes and you nail it. For all your hard work, you deserve something special.
For me, this was a large plate of hummus with pita bread and a slice of almond cake from my favorite (and the only) mediterranean restaurant in town. It is okay to spend a little extra every once in a while to reward your hard work.
How do you save on groceries? Share in the comments section below!